There are certain events that take the world by a storm and open up larger debates, George Floyd’s brutal murder in June was one such incident. The conversation traveled halfway across the world to India, opening up debates about casteism, racism, ethnophaulism, and communalism in the Indian context. Social media was flooded with “Dalit Lives Matter”, “Muslim Lives Matter”, and “Minority Lives Matter.”
As is often the case, societal and cultural chaos bleeds its way into art. Inspired by this, Pratika (aka MC PEP) and Krantinaari decided to pen down lyrics calling out the injustices along the lines of caste, colour, and creed that plague the Indian society while keeping in mind the global narrative around race. Their single, LABELS with debut producer PrabhuNeigh is among the first of its kind which features two female emcees and belongs to the genre of conscious hip-hop.
The title of the single alludes to the constant “labeling” of people along ethnic, communal, casteist, and racial lines. Reducing their identities to stereotypes and outdated ideologies. Growing up in India, almost all of us are aware of terms like “Chinki” and “Kaala” (ethnic slurs) that are thrown around callously in our homes, in school playgrounds, and among friend groups.
The lyrics “Coolie, Haaji, Hori, Chinki, Kaali, Kafeer, Aise vibhajan se bante fakir, Sadiyon ki parampara bewaja lete mazaa, Apman aur nafrat ko darja deti praja, Janma leta jaat paat, din raat karte jaap” hold out a mirror to our society reflecting on the slurs that are attributed to certain sections and how those are upheld and given value over unity.
The lockdown opened up our eyes to the plight of the migrant labourers, how their lives are reduced to their labour and no dignity is afforded to them. The opening verse by Pratika speaks of this divide between the rich and the poor, where poor are constantly subjugated to the worst and yet expected to accept the status quo that favours the rich:
“Folks say ‘Send them back, they don’t belong’
You’re here blaming blameless men, no dignity in labour
Even when they don’t retaliate, you say ‘attack!’
And the pendulum always swings in the privileged man’s favour.”
The single is available on all streaming platforms
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